The economic downturn has had devastating effects on all Americans, and economist are predicting that there are long to be long term affects and that the economy will not recovery fully for a significant amount of time. According to the last report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 14.6 million people are currently unemployed, 9.5%. The long term unemployed, those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, make up 6.8 million of the jobless Americans. However, the economy has had a disproportionate effect on people of color, in an economy where people of color have already long been at a disadvantage. The latest statistics show that while the overall unemployment rate for whites is 8.6%, the unemployment rate for Latinos is 12.4% and the unemployment rate for blacks is 15.4%. While white America may be in the middle of the Great Recession, people of color in America are in the middle of a prolonged depression.
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While white America is just now waking up to the realities of the difficulties of joblessness in America, people of color in America have been very aware of this reality for a long period of time. During the second half of the 1980's and then again in the 1990's mainstream America was enjoying significant economic growth, but of course this economic growth was not equitable. Since the 1980's the gap between the upper class and the middle class in America has been growing, and during the last decade there was the greatest disparity in income equality since the 1920's. However, underneath the class differences the racial differences in income and wealth have gone virtually unnoticed. New America Media reported on a study that showed over the last 23 years the gap between the average net worth of African-American families and white families has more than quadrupled. The study, conducted by Brandeis University's Institute on Assets and Social Policy, found that the average white family has accumulated $95,000 more in total wealth than the average African-American family. These disparities have a direct affect on class mobility and the opportunities that are available to people of color.
During the current Great Recession it is much more difficult for people of color to find employment, even with the benefit of college degree or other important qualifications. According to an article in the New York Times, the unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older last year was twice that of white male college graduates; 8.4 percent among black men compared with 4.4 percent among white men. There are several factors that have place impediments in the way of people of color, and systemic racism is the most significant factor. It begins even before the first interview. According to study published in Social Problems, white males receive substantially more job leads for high-level supervisory positions than women and people of color. It continues as people of color apply for employment. According to a study published in The American Economic Review, job applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names. Even when managers of color are hiring employees, it is more likely that whites will be hired. A study published in The Journal of Labor Economics found that white, Asian and Hispanic managers tended to hire more whites and fewer blacks than black managers did. In fact systemic racism is so prevalent that according to a study by Devah Pager published in the American Journal of Sociology, black applicants without criminal records are no more likely to get a job than white applicants just out of prison.
Then when you look at the effects that the economy has had on communities of color you see even more devastating effects that continue to reinforce these racial disparities. Communities of color have a higher risk of home foreclosure, as statistics from the Center for Responsible Lending show that while black and Latinos had a 21% risk of home foreclosure whites only had a 14.8% risk of home foreclosure. A report from the CRL noted that between 2009 and 2012, $194 and $177 billion will have been drained from African-American and Latino Communities. Statistics have shown that people of color were the most likely to be uninsured before the recession and today they are two-and-a-half times more likely to be uninsured than whites. Lack of access to health care leads to higher rates of untreated illness, and systemic racism is a contributing factor hypertension among people of color. As municipalities around the country struggle to deal with limited resources and a decreasing amount of tax revenue it forces them to cut public services. The cutting of public services, such as public transportation, disproportionately affects communities of color.
While Congress continues to fail to pass unemployment insurance extensions, many Americans attempt to find work and to sustain on a limited social safety net. It becomes easier for whites to ignore the significant problems in communities of color when they themselves are struggling, but it is exactly this privilege of obliviousness that continues the cycle of systemic racism and creates barriers for people of color. The American worker continues to struggle, and people of color continue to live through what has become the Great Black Depression.